A chief congressional critic of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declined Friday to join Republican calls for Holder’s resignation over the Operation Fast and Furious gun-trafficking sting, saying the operation’s failures were “not about any one person.’’
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had told Holder in an Oct. 10 letter: “You own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.’’ Numerous other Republicans have urged Holder to resign over the Phoenix-based sting, in which agents allowed guns to flow illegally onto U.S. streets and into Mexico. Holder has made it clear that he is not stepping down.
On Friday, Issa said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor that Fast and Furious “is not about Eric Holder . . . it’s about a failure that seems to be pervasive within Justice.’’ Issa, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that is investigating Fast and Furious, vowed to pursue what he called a “coverup” by the Justice Department, along with reforms at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Issa’s comments came as the Justice Department turned over more than 1,000 pages of documents Friday to congressional investigators about the gun-trafficking operation. Fast and Furious, which began in 2009, is also under investigation by Justice’s inspector general. It allowed small-time straw purchasers to pass firearms to middlemen, who trafficked the guns to Mexico.
Anger over the tactics, which resulted in more than 2,000 illegally purchased firearms hitting the streets, has led to the reassignment of ATF’s former acting director and others, and the resignation of the U.S. attorney for Arizona in August.
The documents focused on why the Justice Department initially denied the allegations about the operation in a Feb. 4 letter to congressional investigators. At a Senate hearing last month, Holder said he regretted that the letter contained “inaccurate” information.
The new documents, which included extensive internal e-mails, showed that high-level Justice Department officials were involved in writing or editing the Feb. 4 letter. But the papers also showed — as the Justice Department said previously — that officials relied on incorrect information about the gun sting supplied by ATF supervisors and Dennis Burke, the former U.S. attorney for Arizona.
Burke’s attorney Chuck Rosenberg said his client “is a stand-up guy — he provided what he believed to be accurate information to the Department of Justice, as he always does.”
An ATF spokesman declined to comment.